As summer approaches, I look forward to the fragrance and taste of the season’s fresh bounty of produce. The sweet and juicy watermelon — the most iconic of the summer fruits — is my family’s “go to” treat. In recognition of National Watermelon Month in July, I offer two refreshing recipes.
Watermelon, now the most-consumed melon in the United States, is thought to have originated close to 5,000 years ago in Egypt, where it can be seen depicted in hieroglyphic writings. Considered by some to be a vegetable — a member of the cucumber family — watermelon is a healthy option for a number of reasons: It has high levels of lycopene, which is believed to have powerful antioxidant benefits, and it is a rich source of the amino acid citrulline, which has been proven to protect against muscle soreness when consumed prior to a rigorous workout.
In addition to being low in calories (about 46 in a cup), watermelon also contains an impressive variety of other important nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, vitamin A, and magnesium. And because watermelon is more than 91 percent water, it can help you stay hydrated on hot summer days (though it is not a substitute for drinking water).
Yummy as it is on its own, watermelon partners well with many proteins, including feta cheese and blue cheese. Fresh herbs, particularly basil and mint, provide an ideal balance to the watermelon’s sweetness.
My personal preference is the seeded variety because I find the black seeds so much easier to deal with than the pervasive little white ones found in the “seedless” variety.
So even if you just carve up slices for some quick refreshment, enjoy this healthy, low-cal, delicious treat all summer long.
INA GARTEN’S WATERMELON, ARUGULA, AND FETA SALAD
For the vinaigrette:
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (approximately 2 lemons)
- 1/4 cup minced shallots (approximately 1 large)
- 1 Tbsp. honey (or a little extra for added sweetness)
- 1/2 cup olive oil (I avoid the extra virgin variety to keep the flavoring tamer)
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
- 6 cups arugula, washed and spun dry
- 1/8-1/4 watermelon, rind removed, cut in 1-inch cubes (remove as many seeds as possible)
- 12 oz. feta cheese, diced or crumbled (you can use blue or gorgonzola)
- 1 cup (4 oz.) whole fresh mint leaves, julienned (optional)
Whisk together the orange juice, lemon juice, shallots, honey, salt, and pepper. Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking constantly, to form an emulsion. Drizzle over salad ingredients just before serving.
This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s Arugula, Watermelon, and Feta Salad.
QUICK WATERMELON SMOOTHIE
- 4 cups watermelon, diced and seeded
- 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups ice (about 10 cubes)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- pinch table salt
Blend together all ingredients. To serve, decorate with a slice of lime or a few sprigs of mint.